Marvel Studios has made it a habit of churning out huge money spinning blockbusters but it was not as easy as it looks. Marvel started as co-producers on Spiderman and X-Men movies, with Columbia and Fox Studios owning the rights. However, there were other forgettable co-productions like Elektra, Daredevil and Blade (which was not as bad as the first two) along the way and their failures got everyone to rethink the whole ‘films on not-so-popular superheroes’ idea. Spiderman and X-Men were well-established and extremely popular comic book and cartoon franchises, so to make a film on them entailed much less risk. Kids had seen and read plenty of things on both these franchises. So, any film made on these characters was just unstoppable whenever it released. In comparison, DC Comics was not able to make a successful film even on the most popular super heroes, Superman and Batman. (Read More DC vs Marvel)
The issue of lesser-known superheroes was not new for Marvel who had been struggling with this since 1990 when they first gave the rights of Iron Man to a studio. Over the years, no one was able to believe in the project and the rights changed hands a few times before coming back to Marvel in 2005. So Marvel took it upon themselves and conceptualized the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) which today is the third largest movie franchise ever. Iron Man (2008) was the first film in the MCU and no one gave it a chance at the box office. Yet it proved everyone wrong and went on to become a huge blockbuster. Post that Marvel knew it could pull off films even based on lesser-known super heroes, with the right amount of action, humour and CGI in them. They pulled off Thor for god’s sake and have continued their success with Captain America and The Avengers.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the latest film under the Marvel Cinematic Universe and if the opening weekend is any indication then this one too seems all set to break records. Marvel has been able to deliver what the audience wants but their real strength lies in managing the universe so seamlessly. Right from 2005, when they started work on Iron Man, they had envisioned how the universe would pan out and what would be the role of each medium in it. Marvel didn’t just get the universe to play out on the big screen, they extended the universe to TV (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Agent Carter (upcoming)), Netflix (planned), Video Games & even Direct-to-Video Short Films.
To achieve this synergy across various mediums and platforms, Marvel made sure that every director they hired was comfortable with the idea of a shared universe and was able to skillfully weave the story in a small part of it seamlessly. Every Marvel film has some elements from the shared universe and now fans look out for it. The scenes after the end credits are one such recurring element and people wait for them till the very end. The bigger accomplishment, however, is being able to manage the elements of the shared universe across mediums. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D TV series, which started with huge expectations, could not live up to them early on but as the elements from big screen started dropping in, the show has got a huge boost. Nick Fury himself was featured on the show in a very short appearance. A Chitauri (aliens from Avengers) artifact showed up in one episode and Sif (played by Jaimie Alexander) from Thor also made an appearance in an episode.
The biggest proof that Marvel is damn serious about this shared universe came in the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Those of you who haven’t seen The Winter Soldier yet, there are spoilers from here on. [SPOILERS] Captain America: The Winter Soldier serves up plenty of material for Avengers: Age of Ultron and ends with the emergence of Hydra and the death of SHIELD. People who were sitting and watching the film started wondering what would happen to the TV show they have been following for 16 weeks, as it is called Agents of SHIELD. So everyone was waiting for this week’s episode and it did not disappoint at all. The episode brilliantly rides behind the story of The Winter Soldier and hides clues in plain sight. Visuals from the film also make an appearance and the viewers are left more than satisfied. One can actually link each moment as it happens with what they have seen in the film. The fact that this episode is not a one off occurrence and actually takes the story forward along the lines drawn at the start of the season just proves the fact that Marvel has thought this through way ahead.
At this point of time, Marvel is light years ahead of other studios that have only now woken up to the idea of a shared universe. Before this, the concept of a shared universe was totally unheard of and Marvel have shown everyone what a humongous money-spinner this genre and approach can be. Warner and DC have finally announced a Justice League film; Sony is releasing the new X-Men Days of Future Past, which could be a start for their shared universe. Imagine how many super heroes were just lying there gathering dust, but now with this new approach thanks to Marvel, a lot of them will live to fight another day.